DINING — June 26, 2013 at 5:01 pm

Summer Wine

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It’s summer time and the drinking is easy (and responsible … of course). Wine cocktails are a light and refreshing alternative to their liquor based cousins, and can often be whipped up in batches, for maximum chilling, chatting and enjoying. Here are some clever twists on three tried and true classics, starring Niagara wines (Naturally!) for you to test-drive this summer.

BEAUTIFUL BELLINIS

The Bellini was invented sometime between 1934 and 1948 by Giuseppe Cipriani, founder of Harry’s Bar in Venice, Italy. The drink started as a seasonal specialty at Harry’s Bar, a favorite haunt of Ernest Hemingway. The Bellini traditionally consists of puréed white peaches and Prosecco, and Italian sparkling wine. The original recipe was made with a bit of raspberry or cherry juice to give the drink a pink glow.

Naturally Niagara: The greenbelt has no shortage of markets and road side stands to get fresh, juicy peaches in season, July through August. For a traditional Bellini, look for white-fleshed peaches, but these cocktails are just as lovely (looking and tasting) with the yellow-fleshed varieties. Bonus, fresh raspberries–to get that pink “glow on”–are concurrently available in abundance. Yes, Niagara rocks! We’re recommending an award-winning Niagara Sparkling in lieu of Prosecco. AND… because it’s a Rosé, Henry of Pelham, Cuvée Catharine Rosé Brut, adds just a dash more pink to your drink!

SASSY SANGRIA

Sangria is a wine punch typical of Spain, Portugal and Argentina. It normally consists of wine, chopped fruit, a sweetener, and a small amount of added brandy. Sangria is named after the Spanish word for “blood” – “sangre” because of its typical dark-red color – we know, a little creepy – but for the summer season, it’s nice to lighten things up a bit and switch out the red for white. The added bonus: it’s less of an “ooops” when you spill on your white linen pants or table cloth!

Choose a crisp white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio, and mix in orange liqueur, fresh ginger, lemon juice, basil, or mint leaves. Then, add your choice of summer fruits such as strawberries, melon and peaches. This can be prepared up to a day in advance. As usual, Martha does it best, check out the recipe here!

Naturally Niagara: try with Trius Sauvignon Blanc 2012 or Henry of Pelham 2011 Pinot Grigio.

MARVELOUS MARGARITAS

The margarita is a well-known (and awesome) Mexican cocktail consisting of tequila mixed with orange-flavoured liqueur and lime or lemon juice, often served with salt on the glass rim. It is magically refreshing in the summer-time. With a ratio devised to beat the heat of the Latin climates, this margarita make-over is sure to help you rehydrate at your next pool party or wedding shower. Plus this redux has fruit, which counts as nutrition, and it’s beyond simple to make! Get a bottle of your favourite Niagara White, add a bottle of your go-to margarita mix, pureed seedless watermelon and lots of ice. [Pureed watermelon, 4 cups before blending / 4 cups of margarita mix / 2 cups of White Wine]

Serve the mixture in a pitcher or large beverage dispenser – like the cool glass version from HomeSense – with lots of ice, at least 4 cups or more. Some Himalayan pink sea salt makes a pretty and unique rim companion for the saucy little number

Naturally Niagara: No need to break the bank on this one. This region offers some great budget-friendly bottles. If your preference is dry, try 2011 Jackson-Triggs Reserve Series Sauvignon Blanc, or if you like your Margarita on the sweeter/fruitier side, Hernder Reisling is a good choice.